Thoughts on the Book of Job

Quite honestly, the Book of Job is a disappointment! When we suffer, we go to Job to find answers for why and how to cope. However, all we get are a bunch of grumpy old men arguing, some young guy giving his two-cents, and God showing up and blasting everyone. Then we’re back to where we started, as if nothing happened in the first place.

Reading through the book again, as well as reading a recent book by John Walton and Tremper Longman III, “How to Read Job” (IVP, 2015), I have seen some themes often hidden by our expectations. The book is really about the Wisdom of God, which is why it is included as Wisdom Literature in the Old Testament. The Wisdom of God is compared with the wisdom of the world based upon experience and observation (revealed by Job and his “friends”). The challenge of the book is whether we will trust God’s Wisdom even though we do not understand what is happening to us or going on around us.

The book contains challenges to how God runs the world. If it is God’s standard operating procedure (SOP) to bring prosperity and blessing to people who are righteous, then isn’t he creating a world of “mercenaries” who worship and serve him just to get rewarded? What would happen if God took away those benefits (thus Job’s first trial)? Would people still love and serve him? One can see that this is not just a question about SOP, but an implication that God might not be worthy of worship just for who he is. Hmmm…good question. Is my love and service for God based upon a quid pro quo (this for that)? What about the times of drought and despair when I feel like there is nothing in it for me? Do I still trust in his Wisdom?

The second challenge to God’s SOP comes after Job has already begun to suffer. It questions why God is ganging up on a righteous man when, in fact, he is supposed to bless the righteous. This challenge is replicated over and over again in the Psalms as the writers struggle with why the righteous suffer while the wicked are the ones who seem to prosper.

“These two challenges set up the focus of the book (Job) as it pertains to God’s policies in the world: it is not a good policy for righteous people to prosper (for that undermines the development of true righteousness by providing an ulterior motive). In tension with that, it is not as good policy for righteous  people to suffer (they are good people, the one’s who are on God’s side). So what is God to do?” (Walton and Longman, p. 15).

Thus God is assailed both coming and going. To put it in a sanitized version of a colloquial expression: He is darned is he does (bless the righteous) and darned if he doesn’t (therefore, allowing the righteous to suffer). Will Job still maintain his righteousness (integrity) even though there is nothing in it for him and God’s ways seem so incomprehensible? Will we? That seems to be the biggest issue that needs to be resolved both in the book and in our lives.

“The entire debate between Job and his friends and then God’s showing up at the end and restoring Job’s fortunes, shows us that God does not run the world by justice (at least as we understand it), but by His Wisdom. ‘I am God, who is supremely wise and powerful, so I want you to trust me even when you do not understand.'” (Walton and Longman, p. 16)

As the world cries out for justice and mercy in the face of so much suffering, we are called to trust in a God of Wisdom who is working out his purposes behind the veil of our finite understanding. “Deep in unfathomable mines of never failing skill, He treasures up His bright designs and works His sovereign will…Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan His works in vain; God is His own interpreter and He will make it plain.” (William Cowper) Someday…

3 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Book of Job

  1. Fighting Leviathan, With a Wooden Sword!
    By Robert Winkler Burke
    Book #8 of In That Day Teachings
    Copyright 5/25/11 http://www.inthatdayteachings.com

    Notes from Nelson’s Quick Reference Bible Dictionary:

    “The book of Job is not only one of the most remarkable in the Bible, but in literature. As was said of Goliath’s sword, ‘There is none like it,’ none in ancient or in modern literature.” – Kitto. “A book which will one day, perhaps, be seen towering up alone far above all the poetry of the world.” – J. A. Froude. Nelson’s comments say that the true identity of who wrote Job has remained throughout time: a mystery.

    I must not hurt Leviathan,
    As it swoops down on me!
    Dragon’s flame kills and maims,
    I’ll soon be history!

    Woe is me! Woe is me!
    I have only a wooden sword!
    From the cross, from the cross,
    Of Jesus, my victorious Lord!

    I must not hurt Leviathan,
    Its skin is tough and brittle!
    His pride is ridiculous big,
    And I am less than little!

    We fight for hours,
    Oh, we fight for days on end!
    Then, when it’s over,
    The beast gets up again!

    My wooden sword damages it not,
    I’m like a grasshopper against a giant!
    Then it lays down and coughs up its heart,
    Upon its tongue, now on me: reliant!

    Leviathan now relies on me,
    To treat its heart with care!
    No longer enemies, but fast friends,
    I approach on God’s dare!

    Woe is me! Woe is me!
    I have only a wooden sword!
    From the cross, from the cross,
    Of Jesus, my victorious Lord!

    With my puny wooden sword,
    I walk into the danger zone of teeth and head,
    To the heart now on the tongue,
    I gently touch with sword, and out come drops of red.

    From the sword come good drops,
    Of God’s wisdom sacrifice,
    Then Beast wakes up amazed,
    Swallows heart and renews its vice!

    Cruelly taking advantage of my nearness,
    Leviathan scorches me in full-blown rage!
    I fight him off again with wooden sword,
    Behold! Now Beast weakens! says my Page.

    For my Page knows what’s going on,
    Not long ago, he was a bad Leviathan!
    And he and I fought for years! In fact,
    His dual was an unforgettable marathon!

    But after thousands of drops from God’s cross,
    My Page was, of beast, set free!
    Now he’s learning to be God’s Man-of-War,
    Who fights evil, just like me!

    Woe is me! Woe is me!
    I have only a wooden sword!
    From the cross, from the cross,
    Of Jesus, my victorious Lord!

    After days and months and years,
    My Page and I have succeeded!
    Leviathan whom we fought,
    Is full humble now: defeated!

    My Page has become a Swordsman,
    The Leviathan, his Page,
    I have left off sword for pen,
    That you understand this age!

    So then, pride of religion and its rigidness,
    Is killing man!
    Just as, humility and flexibility,
    Kills Leviathan!

    Job learned this In That Day,
    Of his: long ago!
    Now we must all learn the same!
    You do not know?

    Holy flexibility,
    Is where Christ-in-You is at!
    You’ll remember the fight,
    When the rigid lose all that!

    You’ll remember the fight,
    When, as rigid Leviathan, you with great enmity: hated your betters!
    Who took your blows nobly,
    And with kind, wooden, bloody swords, they removed blind fetters.

    How you’ll hate that forgiving blood of Jesus,
    Applied drops at a time on your stony heart!
    Until you see it is not the end,
    But the Christ-in-You: Page-Warrior start!

    You’ll then, rigid ones, be on the,
    Other side of the sword!
    You’ll say, as Job did, I repent!
    In dust and ashes, Lord!

    And if you were particularly mean,
    And hurtful to your Warrior-Savior,
    God will give you a willow-wimpy sword,
    To fight Leviathan, your neighbor!

    Woe is me! Woe is me!
    I have only a wooden sword!
    From the cross, from the cross,
    Of Jesus, my victorious Lord!

    You might say,
    Well, it serves me just about right!
    Rip me up,
    Leviathan! It’s time to fight!

    I shall not return evil for evil,
    From proud, religiously-rigid man,
    He may hurt me, but me never: him,
    He’ll get what I have in me: I AM!

    The great I AM,
    Wants to live in us all!
    In That Day it’s,
    A strange work: yet not small!

    It’s a BIG thing,
    When Leviathan pride dies!
    And Christ-in-You,
    Trumpets: loud victory cries!

    Yet and even so,
    Your pride in all this will be choked by your own reins,
    By the smallish sword,
    You’ll be given, to do the large work that remains!

    Woe is me! Woe is me!
    I have only a wooden sword!
    From the cross, from the cross,
    Of Jesus, my victorious Lord!

    You might ask me, where did I learn all this?
    That it’s a pride-fight and that Leviathan isn’t a dinosaur true!
    I learned it by reading the Book of Job,
    From the Warrior-Prophet, not a Page, whose name is Elihu!

    This great, but young, Warrior-Prophet,
    Had heard so much talk of pride,
    Elihu wrote all of Job’s book,
    Yet pride in his work: he did hide!

    He hid his authorship,
    And prophetic voice with Job,
    That following Workmen,
    Would put this in their brain’s globe…

    Religious-Pride is Leviathan,
    Leviathan is Religious-Pride!
    I write this, as your proud author,
    Oops! That beast is hard to hide!

    Where is my bent, old wooden sword?
    God, I lay my heart upon my tongue!
    Knowledge puffeth up in me: pride,
    Touch me with the blood of God’s Son!

    Woe is me! Woe is me!
    I have only a wooden sword!
    From the cross, from the cross,
    Of Jesus, my victorious Lord!

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